Doctors call for US to phase out live animal markets
In an effort to shut down all US live animal markets and protect people against future zoonotic outbreaks, the Physicians Committee filed a legal Petition for Rulemaking with Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, the US Surgeon General.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – the non-profit of 12,000 American doctors – has applauded China for announcing a plan to phase out the sale of live poultry and has urged the US to follow suit. Live animal markets are “a breeding ground for organisms that may not cause disease in animal hosts but can be deadly to humans,” according to the Committee.
“If China can do it, why can’t we? Avoiding future pandemics like the COVID-19 global crisis requires a total ban on all live markets, including the 80 in New York City alone,” said Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, President of the Physicians Committee. “Poultry flocks are breeding grounds for influenza A viruses, and live animal markets are the source of coronavirus.”
A new bill, introduced by Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), would immediately prohibit the operation of live animal markets in New York, effectively suspending current live markets’ operations and preventing further licenses for such markets from being issued.
“In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has ravaged New York and changed life for millions of New Yorkers,” said Assembly Member Rosenthal. “As policymakers, we have a responsibility to respond to this crisis by doing everything in our power to prevent the next pandemic. Closing New York’s live animal markets, which operate in residential neighbourhoods and do not adhere to even the most basic sanitary standards, until we determine whether they can be made safe, is a vital first step.”
“Live animal markets are a welcome mat to coronaviruses. The failure to close a single live animal market in China led to a pandemic that has closed countless businesses worldwide and led to an enormous death toll and economic havoc,” stated the doctors in the Petition for Rulemaking. “There must not be another pandemic.”
Anthony S. Fauci, MD, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added: “It just boggles my mind that how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface that we don’t just shut it down.”
The Committee also recently filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to have all meat and poultry tested for COVID-19, as well as for clearer reports of the number of cases of meat workers infected with the virus. Since, the USDA has declined the request. “We have conducted an expedited review and have decided to deny your petition,” USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) said. “We have determined that neither the petition nor the addendum includes scientific studies or other information to demonstrate that COVID-19 can be transmitted to humans by meat or poultry products. In addition, some of the actions you are requesting are outside the scope of FSIS’s authority. The actions requested in your petition would not contribute to FSIS’s public health mission to ensure that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and properly marked, labelled, and packaged.”